To be honest, it's hard to truly put into words what Oklahoma's 85-72 win over UCLA on Monday night actually meant. It's often a much overused cliche to proclaim how much a team has gone through over the course of a season. Such would not be the case here as this Oklahoma team has suffered more than maybe any other Sherri Coale team in her tenure and yet here they are, coming back to play in Oklahoma City and in the Sweet Sixteen. The magnitude of that and what this team has accomplished this year really cannot be emphasized enough.
And I say all of that from the obvious perspective of a fan. Someone clearly on the outside looking in. I couldn't begin to imagine just how special Monday night was for Sherri Coale, her coaching staff, the two seniors whose careers were cut short because of injury, the other two seniors fighting their guts out to prolong their career, or the rest of the team fighting right along with them.
I could tell you about the game against UCLA. I could tell you that senior Joanna McFarland played with a tenacity like you have rarely seen. As impressive as 20 points, 16 rebounds, 3-of-4 from three, and 9-of-10 from the free throw line is it doesn't even begin to describe her performance Monday night.
I could tell you that Aaryn Ellenberg, who finished with a game high 27 points, played like one of the best players in the country. That she hit multiple shots that left you, and Coale as she's later admit, simply shaking your head because they were so ridiculous. Or that she played all 40 minutes in a game played at a frenetic pace.
I could tell you that Sharane Campbell was arguably the biggest difference in the game scoring 19 points and playing lockdown defense. I could tell you that Morgan Hook was calm in the face of constant pressure and was the leader from the point guard position this team needed her to be. I could tell you that this team got valuable minutes from their bench in the form of Jasmine Hartman and Nicole Kornet.
I could tell you all of those things, but to use another cliche this game was simply about more than that.
I don't really care if you're a fan of women's basketball or this OU team. I don't really care if you follow this team week in and week out. I don't really care if you've watched most, if not all, of their games this season. I don't really care whether or not you know that this team has lost four players to season-ending injuries before/during the season. I don't really care whether or not you're aware they were so desperate for bodies, just to be able to go 5-on-5 in practices, that they had to borrow two players from the volleyball team.
At a certain point, it's not really about that. At a certain point, it's about recognizing the accomplishment and giving it the respect it/they deserve.
And having watched this team over the course of their entire season, I can guarantee you one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sherri Coale, her coaching staff, this team and what they've accomplished (and not just because of last night) have earned your respect.
I can promise you that.